Food and Drink

Try pickling salmon, a tasty and traditional way to preserve the season’s catch

Pickled salmon

In an effort to capture the freshness of the season, this is the time of year for putting up. Friends and neighbors have been sharing their favorite recipes for wild berry jams, canned tomatoes with fresh garden basil and oregano, and all types of smoked salmon. Pickling fish is another traditional way of preserving the season’s catch. Similar to pickled herring, beloved in Scandinavian cuisine, Claire Neaton and Emma Teal Laukitis share a simple recipe from their cookbook, “The Salmon Sisters,” a love letter to Alaska.

This basic recipe is easily adaptable — consider adding some fresh jalapeños or lemon slices and dill fronds. A note on the salt: Pickling or canning salt is called for as it’s non-iodized and does not include anticaking agents, which often makes for cloudy and discolored pickles. Diamond Crystal kosher salt or pure sea salt are good alternatives as they don’t contain any additives. Premade pickling spice, often a combo of whole and dried spices, is available in most grocery stores, but you can also make your own. Enjoy the pickled fish with sesame crackers, as suggested by the authors, or buttered toast.

Recipe slightly adapted from and reprinted with permission from “The Salmon Sisters” cookbook published in 2020 by Sasquatch Books.

Pickled salmon

Makes about 1 quart-sized jar

Pickling salt; see note above

2 pounds boneless, skinless wild salmon fillets

2 cups apple cider vinegar or white vinegar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon pickling spice, store-bought or homemade; see note above

1 to 2 white onions, thinly sliced

Optional: 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced; dill fronds; lemon slices

Pickled salmon

• Sprinkle a thin layer of salt in a deep, clean bucket or large baking pan or glass bowl; arrange a single layer of salmon fillets over salt. Pour more salt over fish to cover and another layer of salmon, repeating layers until all salmon is well covered in salt. The salt helps pull out moisture and “cure” the fish. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.

• To make pickling liquid, combine two parts vinegar to one part sugar and one tablespoon pickling spice in a medium saucepan over low heat. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally, to dissolve sugar. Refrigerate until cool.

• After 24 hours, remove salmon fillets from salt and rinse well under cold running water. Discard salt and rinse container. Return salmon fillets to container, add enough cold water — tap water is fine — to cover fish; refrigerate overnight. After 8 to 10 hours, remove fillets from water and pat dry with paper or kitchen towels. Cut salmon into bite-size chunks, about one-inch cubes.

• In a quart-size glass jar, or equivalent, or other non-metallic container, add a layer of onion slices and other optional ingredients, if using, and salmon chunks. Pour some of cooled pickling liquid; add another layer of salmon and onion and liquid until all is used up or jar is full. Leave about one inch of space from top of jar. Be sure there is enough liquid in jar to cover all the layers. Seal and refrigerate at least 72 hours for proper pickling. Store in refrigerator up to one month. Enjoy with crackers and butter or straight from the jar.

Kim Sunée

Kim Sunée is a bestselling author ("Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home," "A Mouthful of Stars," "Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks") and a former magazine food editor. She's based in Anchorage. For more food and travel, visit